Like many important questions, the answer is complicated. While it’s true that, at the point of delivery, renewable resources deliver energy with fewer environmental costs, the same can’t be said of what it takes to get that energy to market. It’s also true there are some sources that create new problems. One example is that wind farms kill thousands of birds each year. However, that number is falling as technology develops improved, more efficient windmills. Besides, buildings, power line collisions and electrocutions, and road accidents, not to mention cats, are responsible for many more bird deaths.
Consider solar energy. While the sun’s energy is free to use, the technology required to take advantage of it isn’t. There are environmental costs that must be factored in when considering the final, total cost of delivering usable energy to the consumer. For instance, manufacturing photovoltaic cells (PV) cells, used to take advantage of solar energy, currently requires the use of hazardous materials including nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, acetone, and hydrogen fluoride. Thin-film PV cells aren’t any better. Recycling, while it helps, doesn’t begin to solve the problem. This is just the tip of the iceberg. For instance, while it seems counterintuitive, fossil fuels are needed to bring renewable resource-based fuels to market.
Can renewable energy be environmentally friendly?
The short answer is it has to be. It’s an irrefutable fact that fossil fuels are a finite, irreplaceable source of energy. When’s the last time you saw a dinosaur? We have to find a way to meet the ever-increasing demand for energy.
Do the problems we have encountered mean we should give up on renewable energy? The resounding answer is “No!” Taking advantage of the many types of alternative energy sources is a move toward a future of clean energy that’s less expensive to produce and causes less damage to the environment. However, we must also be honest when evaluating the environmental cost, and we must focus on reducing and, hopefully, eliminating those costs as soon as practicable.
Any community that doesn’t want to be behind the eight-ball of tomorrow has to participate in the responsible move to renewable resources as a source of energy. Together, we can move toward a brighter future that includes the best alternative energy sources have to offer. Contact us for more information about how we are moving forward.